By Rebecca Gaunt
In the wake of a head on collision that left at least one person seriously injured, Cobb County is reviewing potential changes to Pete Shaw Road.
Residents of Pete Shaw spoke with the Courier last month about frequent incidents on the winding road that connects Sandy Plains and Steinhauer Road. Longtime neighbors said the road has been dangerous for decades and has only gotten worse as the population grew. Lassiter High School is located at the intersection of Steinhauer and Pete Shaw, an added concern for the residents.
According to Cobb Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, a northbound left turn signal will be installed to help vehicles turn left from Sandy Plains onto Pete Shaw. It should be in place no later than August.
In addition, the county staff will implement the following:
-Review the intersection of Pete Shaw Road at Steinhauer Road for sight distance, proper signage, and consideration of an all-way stop.
-Review the intersection of Pete Shaw Road at Regas Drive for consideration of an all-way stop.
-Conduct a sign and pavement marking review of Pete Shaw Road to ensure proper placement of all traffic control signs.
-Evaluate Pete Shaw Road for placement of a permanent dynamic speed display sign (“Your Speed is XX MPH”).
-Collect speed data to evaluate the posted speed limit.
-Consider installing additional raised pavement markings, particularly in curves.
The accident that precipitated these measures occurred on April 11. An SUV took a curve too fast and crossed the yellow line, hitting a small car head on. The driver of the car was taken to the hospital to be treated for injuries and the passenger of the SUV, 21-year-old Devon Reynolds, was also seriously injured.
Her stepfather, Michael Thornton, told the Courier she suffered severed intestines and a severed artery in the neck. She also lost part of her colon. According to the latest update on the family’s GoFundMe page, Reynolds was released from the hospital just last week. She is on a feeding tube and waiting to heal enough for an intestinal transplant.
Nikkie Grzelka lives right by the curve where the accident took place. Not only did she rush out to help, but her security camera captured high quality footage of the accident, which she turned over to police. She’s said she’s relieved about the turn signal being installed on Sandy Plains because of near misses she has witnessed. She also hopes the county makes the intersection of Pete Shaw and Steinhauer a three-way stop and that a second speed-display sign will be installed so drivers are alerted going both directions.
“Everything they are reviewing is great, we just hope they take action and follow through to help make Pete Shaw a safer road for those traveling to and from school and those traveling to work and home,” Grzelka said.
Drew Raessler, deputy director of Cobb DOT, said a review uncovered nine crashes between January 2017 and April 2021, including the one that injured Reynolds. However, as noted by residents of Pete Shaw, this number doesn’t reflect the whole picture. It doesn’t include the minor incidents and near misses they’ve witnessed, in which emergency services weren’t called because the drivers were able to return to the road on their own or with help from responding residents.
The Courier submitted an open records request for accidents that occurred along Pete Shaw for the last seven years. Six records were returned. Raessler said the discrepancy may be because “a crash in our total may have Pete Shaw listed as the intersecting road, so it wouldn’t appear in a report run by PD for only Pete Shaw as the on road.”
In March 2019, a car was traveling eastbound on Pete Shaw, near Bramblebush Trail, when the driver lost control and veered left into a tree. The driver was cited for driving too fast for conditions, failure to maintain a lane and DUI less safe.
In August 2020, a driver lost control and crashed into a yard at the intersection of Pete Shaw and Indian Town Road. He was also cited for speeding, failure to maintain a lane and DUI less safe.
A pedestrian was injured in a hit and run in September 2018. The man was struck from behind while walking along Pete Shaw near Bramblebush Trail just before 10 p.m. The police report states, “at the collision scene, the roadway is not illuminated and does not have a sidewalk.”
Lack of sidewalks is another source of contention for the residents who spoke with the Courier. Grzelka said she frequently sees high school students walking along the curve between Regas Drive and Bramblebush. She often calls to pedestrians from her porch telling them it’s safer to walk in her grass.
According to Birrell, there are no remaining sidewalk funds for the year, but Pete Shaw Road can be considered for funding when the 2022 SPLOST programs begin next year.
“We are looking forward to seeing what the county decides to do on Pete Shaw going forward,” Grzelka told the Courier Tuesday. Just that morning her security system captured yet another car squealing around the curve and crossing into the opposite lane. Fortunately, it had returned to the correct side by the time a pickup truck loaded with ladders and traveling in the opposite direction passed it.
Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.